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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Disability as a Driver of Accessibility

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Individuals with disabilities can help set their organization's accessibility standards, writes Robert Pearson.

Image: At some point in everyone's life, we will have some form of disability

Image: At some point in everyone's life, we will have some form of disability.

If you are not familiar with the acronym "PwD," and are reading this blog out of curiosity or because you clicked on some links on a related website, it is an abbreviation for 'Persons with Disabilities.' Generally, it is a term that is used to refer to and used by persons who may or may not have a declared disability. 

When reflecting on the work I've done in my career on accessibility and the ongoing work done by my organization, Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) specifically with regards to media accessibility, I find that my passion for my work comes from a personal understanding of accessibility that developed as a result of my own physical disability, which became prevalent through my teens. There are numerous examples of organizations finding success in the implementation of accessibility when it is lead and championed by someone with that passion and a personal stake with accessibility.  Accessibility finds recognition and validation when those who are accountable for it have an understanding of who the widest possible audience is.

What does that mean for how your organization might choose to consider adopting accessibility? Something tangible is that it is a business differentiator. You can stand apart from your potentially inaccessible competitors to show that you are accountable to that widest possible audience. However, you also become a driver for innovation in regards to accessibility within your industry. We find ourselves at AMI working across the industry to foster an adoption of accessibility, including media standards for description and also to act as a neutral not-for-profit media organization amongst them to ensure that consensus is found and everyone has an understanding of why accessibility is important.

In Canada we are seeing a shift in our television and media industry landscape. Progressively more things are being delivered through a digital format and thus multi-platform and multi-screen considerations increase the requirements for media accessibility beyond those of simply captioning, description and on-air signing. As our mandate is to make media accessible to all Canadians, we are finding that industry collaboration on numerous initiatives is leading to success in delivering accessibility nationwide with the assistance of our partners.

The inherent link between disability/accessibility and personal experience will always exist. It is not something to be exploited, but when its usage allows for increased accessibility by many more, it becomes a passionate driver for innovation and culture change.

At some point in everyone's life, we will have some form of disability. One cannot define what 'normal' is. It's normal to have some abilities that we excel at and some abilities that we are disabled at. In 2011, I discussed my own relationship in this regard at a conference in Montreal, Quebec. You can view that discussion here (opens as YouTube video. Please Note: some of the discussion content may be deemed extreme in nature).


Related Resources

Blog: Push Button Accessibility | Read Robert Pearson's Article.

Publication: The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework | Download PDF.

Event: IoT Summit: The Gateway to Innovation - October 28-29, 2014 at Rome, Italy | View event details.